Chandigarh: Infighting in Punjab Congress flared up on Saturday with senior leader Amarinder Singh accusing Partap Singh Bajwa of sabotaging his Lok Sabha election campaign in Amritsar, a charge rubbished by the PCC chief as "utter lies".
In a statement, Amarinder alleged that Bajwa and his brother Fateh Bajwa had tried to sabotage his campaign in Amritsar.
They had specifically visited the city and told people to oppose him, Amarinder claimed, adding that he had to call Fateh and warn him against indulging in such activities.
Amarinder said he kept quiet so far in the interest of the party, but was saying it now as some senior leaders were unnecessarily being targeted and blamed for no fault.
Bajwa, however, termed the allegation as "utter lies".
"I reject the allegations with the contempt they deserve," Bajwa said.
In a statement, Bajwa said as the party president, it was his prerogative to visit any constituency in the state, but this time Amarinder was lying.
"Is he motivated by the desire to occupy the post of the PPCC chief from which he had to go following successive defeats of Congress in every election beginning with 2007. It is Capt Amarinder Singh who handed over the government on a platter to the Akali Dal in 2012 when even Parkash Singh Badal and Sukhbir Singh Badal could never imagine that they would return to power," he said.
"Capt Amarinder Singh is trying to deflect from the real issue, as a number of MLAs and leaders from other areas had camped in Amritsar throughout the campaign, neglecting their own regions and it was this strategy of his which resulted in colossal loss in other areas.
"Now, he will have to explain this situation to the party high command, so he is trying to raise frivolous and baseless issues and levelling false allegations to divert focus."
It was because of this reason that the party got defeated in Gurdaspur, Khadoor Sahib, Bathinda, Anandpur Sahib and Sangrur," Bajwa said.
Bajwa claimed his brother was bed-ridden for more than a week during the election campaign and he had no time to go out of Gurdaspur as he himself was contesting from there.
Amarinder also attacked the chairman of the party`s Disciplinary Action Committee GK Chatrath, asking him if he could initiate action against Bajwa and his brother.
Taking a dig at Chatrath for issuing notices to two party MLAs Rana Gurmeet Sodhi and Kewal Dhillon on Thursday for openly seeking Bajwa`s resignation, Amarinder asked him if he could initiate similar disciplinary proceedings against Bajwa and his brother.
Replying to the charge, Chatrath said, "Neither during election nor after so many days, Amarinder had raised the issue of Bajwa brothers."
Launching a counter attack, he said Congress lost two successive Assembly polls in 2007 and 2012 when Amarinder was Punjab Congress chief and in 2004 Lok Sabha polls, when Amarinder was the Chief Minister, Congress could manage only two seas, but no body questioned about his role or asked him (Amarinder) to step down.
Yesterday, Amarinder had condemned the serving of disciplinary notices to the MLAs and termed the action as attempts to "gag the popular sentiment" in the party.
Meanwhile, some Punjab Congress MLAs and other senior leaders challenged the moral authority of Amarinder to question Bajwa`s leadership, reminding him that the party had been reduced to just two seats in the 2004 Lok Sabha elections when he was the chief minister.
In a statement, these leaders reminded Amarinder that he did not offer his resignation to the party high command, neither did he own the responsibility at that time.
The leaders include MLAs Parminder Singh Pinki, Om Parkash Soni, Karan Brar, Ajit Inder Singh Mofar, Bharat Bhushan Ashu, Sangat Singh Gilzian and Randip Singh Nabha.
They said in the North, Punjab was the only state where Congress managed to retain three seats out of 13 and the situation would have been entirely different, but for intervention by Aam Aadmi Party.
The Congress was close second on the four seats won by AAP. They pointed out that most of the party MLAs from whose Assembly segments the Congress lost had shifted to Amritsar to campaign for Amarinder.
Also, they recalled that it was Bajwa under whose leadership the party had launched a massive anti-drug campaign which had received an overwhelming response.
However, it was Amarinder who had played a dubious role by opposing Punjab Congress demand for a CBI probe into the multi-crore synthetic drug case, they said.
They also challenged Amarinder questioning the authority of Chatrath in issuing show cause notices to two MLAs.
Amarinder Singh won from Amritsar, defeating BJP`s heavyweight Arun Jaitley. Bajwa had to face defeat at the hands of saffron party leader Vinod Khanna from Gurdaspur.